Samuel Crockett.

The White Plumes of Navarre: A Romance of the Wars of Religion



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"You mean Ц ?" said Raphael, his face now of a livid paleness.

The priest beckoned him a little nearer, placed his lips, still smiling, close to the young man's ear, and whispered two words.

"No Ц no Ц no!" gasped Raphael, starting back, "not that Ц anything but that! I cannot Ц I will not Ц anything but that!"

"Then there is, I fear greatly, no other way!"

"None?"

"Your soul is the Church's Ц your body the King's," said the Jesuit; "take care that you offend not both. For such there is no forgiveness, even in the grave. Besides, you could never get a dispensation to marry a heretic. Trust me, my way is the best."

"She would return to the Faith," said Raphael, who, though a man of no half measures in his own plottings, yet stood aghast and horrified at what the smiling priest proposed to him.

"Never," said Father Mariana; "I know the breed Ц 'proud as a Scot,' say the French, your friends, who know them best. And in nothing prouder or more stubborn than in their heresy and hatred of the Wholesome Discipline of the Church."

"I cannot," said Raphael; "after all, she is my cousin Ц my near and only relative."

"If she were the mother who bore you," affirmed the priest, "your duty would be the same. And moreover (though, indeed, it becomes not me to press upon you that which should be your first happiness), has it struck you that you have passed your word to the Se?orita Valentine, my niece Ц ?"

"The Lady Valentine would have nothing to say to me," cried the young man sharply; "I wed none such!"

"But are you so sure of your Scottish heretic? As for Valentine, when was a gallant young man discouraged by a woman's first 'No'? You have much to learn, young man; Valentine la Ni?a has been well taught. Fear nothing. Where she gives her hand, her heart will go with it. I have schooled her myself. She has no will but that of the Ges? Ц think on it, my son, and deeply!"

And still smiling gently, the Jesuit went out, leaving Raphael to meditations singularly unhappy, even for a man who has to choose between the gallows and marriage with one of two women, neither of whom he loves.

CHAPTER XXIX.
THE SHUT HOUSE IN MONEY STREET

There is a house in the city of Perpignan, in the street called "of the money," where on a time strange things were done and still stranger planned. It is the ancient House of the Holy Office, that is to say, of the Inquisition. In an upper room, after the fatigues of the day, three priests were seated. One was a dark, thin man, the type of Philip's new inquisitors, a Torquemada reborn; the second was a little grey-haired man, with watering reddish eyes, and a small mouth, as if it had been cut with one blow of a chisel; while in the only comfortable chair lounged a certain smiling Jesuit father, who, though under the open censure of his General, was yet the most powerful man in all their terrible Order Ц one Mariana, historian, pamphleteer, disputant, plotter, inquisitor, and chief firebrand of the new Society which had come to turn the world upside down.

These three men awaited a messenger who was to bring them momentous intelligence from a city far away.

Little was said, though it was supper-time, and wines and meat had been placed on the table.

The two Fathers of the Holy Office ate sparingly, as became men whose eyes had seen their fellows endure many hours of torment that day, in order that their hearts and minds might be purified from heresy, and their money chink in the coffers of Holy Church. Only Mariana ate and drank heartily. For was it not his business to go about the world with soft compressive palm and a cheerful smile on his rosy face, a complete refutation of the idea that a Jesuit must of necessity be a dark and cunning plotter, or an inquisitor, merely an ecclesiastical executioner?

The Chief Surintendant Teruel was a grim Aragonese, a peasant brought up hardly, the humanity ground out of him by long years of noviciate, till now he knew no pity, no kindness, no faltering, while he carried out the will of God as interpreted to him by his hierarchical superiors.

Little Frey Tullio, on the contrary, was a Neapolitan, who had been sent over from Rome on purpose to familiarise himself with the best Spanish methods. For nowhere did the Holy Office thrive so congenially and root itself so deeply as in Catholic Spain. Frey Tullio did his work conscientiously, but without the stern joy of his Aragonese superior, and certainly wholly without the supple, subtle wit and smiling finesse of Mariana, the famous "outcast" of the Company of the Ges?.

"A man is waiting below," said a black-robed acolyte, who had handled certain confession-producing ropes and cords that day, and was now also resting from his labours. The prisoners who had been saved for the next auto de f? (except those who, being delicate, had succumbed to the Lesser and Greater Question) rested equally from theirs Ц in the cellars below, the blood stiffening in their unwashed wounds, and their rack-tormented bones setting into place a little so as to be ready for ten of the clock on the morrow.

"A man waiting below?" repeated the Chief Inquisitor; "what does he want?"

"To see the Fathers of the Holy Office," said the servitor, wondering if he had sufficiently wiped the wine from his mouth ere he came in Ц the Surintendant was regarding him so sternly.

"He looks like a shepherd of the hills," said the acolyte; "indeed, I have seen him before Ц at Collioure. He is a servant, so he says, of Don Raphael Llorient!"

"Ah," said Mariana quickly, "then I think I can guess his message. I have already spoken of it with Don Raphael."

"Bid three stout familiars of the Office stand unseen behind the curtain there, weapons in hand," commanded Surintendant Teruel; "then show the man up!"

Jean-aux-Choux entered, long-haired, wild-eyed, his cloak of rough frieze falling low about his ankles, and his hand upon the dagger-hilt which had once been red with the blood of the Guise.

The three looked silently at him, with that chill, pitiless gaze which made no difference between a man asked to speak his message and him who, by one word out of his own mouth, must deliver himself to torture and to death.

"Stand!" commanded the Chief Inquisitor, "speak your message briefly, and if all be well, you are at liberty to return as you came!"

The threat was hardly veiled, but Jean-aux-Choux stood undaunted.

"Death is my familiar friend," he said; "I am not afraid. God, who hath oft delivered me from the tooth of the lion and the claw of the bear, can deliver me also from this Philistine."

The two judges of men's souls looked at each other. This was perilously like fanaticism. They knew well how to deal with that. But Mariana only laughed and tapped his forehead covertly with his forefinger.

"He is harmless, but mad, this fellow," he murmured; "I have often spoken with him while I abode at the house of Don Raphael of Collioure. He hath had in his youth some smattering of letters, but now what little lear he had trots all skimble-skamble in his head. Yet, failing our young Dominican of Sens Ц well, we might go farther and fare worse."

Then he turned to Jean-aux-Choux.

"Your message, shepherd?" he said. "Fear nothing. We shall not harm you."

"Had I supposed so, you would not have found me here Ц out of the mouth of the lion, and out of Ц "

"That will do," said Mariana, cutting him short; "whence come you?"

"From the camp of two kings, a great and a little, a true and a false, the lion and the dog Ц "

"Speak plainly Ц we have little time to waste!"

"Plainly then, I have seen the meeting of Henry of Valois and Henry of Navarre! They fell each on the other's neck and kissed!"

The two inquisitors rose to their feet. For the first time emotion showed on their faces. The chief, tall, black, sombre, stood and threatened Jean-aux-Choux with comminatory forefinger.

"If you speak lies, beware!"

The little Italian, formerly so grey and still, nothing stirring about him save the restless, beady eyes common to all Neapolitans, stood up and vociferated.

"It is an open defiance of our Holy Father," he cried, "a shame of shames Ц the Valois shall be accursed! He has delivered his realm to the Huguenot. He shall be burnt alive, and I Ц I would refuse him the viaticum!"

"He may not have time even for that!" said Mariana softly Ц "that is, when his day comes. But haste you, man, tell us what befel Ц where, and how."

"On Sunday last," began Jean-aux-Choux, looking his three inquisitors in the face with the utmost calm, "I was, as Father Mariana knows, in a certain place upon the affairs of my master.

"It was in a park near a great city of many towers. A river ran near by and a bridge spanned it. At the bridge-head were three great nobles Ц dukes and peers of France, so they said. Many people were in the park and about the palace which stood within it. There seemed no fear. The place was open to all. About a chapel door they cried 'God save the King!' For within a man, splendidly arrayed, was hearing mass Ц I saw him enter."

The inquisitors looked at one another, nodding expressively.

"But I cared not for that. I was at the bridge-head, and almost at my elbow the three nobles conferred one with the other, doubtful if he for whom they waited would come.

"'I should not, if I were he,' said one of them; 'my father did the like, and died! Only he had a written promise.'"

"That was Chatillon, Coligny's son, I warrant," said Mariana, who seemed to know everything.

"And another said, 'He has my word Ц he will believe that, though he doubts that of the King!'"

"Epernon, for a wager!" cried the Jesuit, clapping his hands; "there spoke the man! And the third, what said he?"

"Oh, he Ц no great matter," answered Jean-aux-Choux, gently stroking his brow, as if to recall a matter long past. "Ah, I do remember Ц he only caused great swelling words to come from his mouth, and rattled his sword in his scabbard, declaring that if there was any treachery he would thrust the traitor through and through with 'Monsieur la Chose' (so he named his sword), which he declared to be the peer and overlord of any king in Christendie!"

"That would be the Marshal d'Aumont," said Mariana, after a pause. "Well, and so these three waited there, on the bridge, did they?"

"Ay, I warrant. I was at their elbow, as I say," quoth Jean-aux-Choux, "on the bridge called the 'Pont de la Motte.' And presently there came in sight a cloud of dust, and out of the cloud galloping horses, with one that rode in front. And there were spear-heads that glinted, and musket-barrels, and swords with dinted scabbards. And the armour of these men was all tashed, and their helms like to a piece of lead that one has smitten with a hammer long and long."

"Battered armour is the worn breviary of the soldier!" commented Mariana. "Had these horsemen white scarves belting them?"

"Each man of them!" Jean-aux-Choux answered. "But even he that rode at the head had his armour (so much of it as he wore) in a like state; but whereas all the others rode with plain steel helms, there was a white plume in his. Those who stood near called it his panache, and said it was miracle-working. Also he wore a cloak, like that of a night-sentinel, but underneath, his doublet and hose were of olive-green velvet. He was of a hearty countenance, robust of body, and rode gallantly, with his head thrown back, laughing at little things by the way Ц as when a court page-boy, all in cloth of gold, fell off the tree on which he had climbed to see the show, and had to be pulled out of the river, dripping and weeping, with a countryman's rake all tangled in the hinder breadths of his raiment."

"The Bearnais! To a hair!" cried the Jesuit. "Ah, what a man! What a man Ц if only he were on the side of Holy Church Ц "

"He is a heretic of heretics," said the Surintendant Temel, "and deserves only the flames and the yellow robe!"

"It is a pity," said Mariana, with a certain contempt for such intolerance of idea; "you would have found him an equally good man in your father's wheat-field, and I, at the King's council. One day he will give our Philip tit-for-tat Ц that is, if he live so long!"

"Which God forbid!" said the inquisitor.

"Amen!" assented Frey Tullio.

"Well," smiled Mariana, "there is no pleasing you. For me, there are many sorts of gallant men, but with you, a man must either swallow all the Council of Trent, or be food for flames."

The inquisitors were silent. Discussion was not their business. They worked honestly from ten in the morning till five in the afternoon. Therefore, they deserved their rest, and if Mariana persisted in talking they would not get it. Still, they were eager to hear what the servant of Raphael Llorient had to say.

Mariana made Jean a signal to go on with his tale. He continued:

"So being used to run on the mountains, I outstripped the crowd and came to the door of the chapel where the Other King, he in the cloak of blue and gold, was at his prayers. The crowd pressed and thronged Ц all looking the other way.

"And I waited. But not long. From very far away there came a crying of many people Ц a great soughing whisper first, then a sound like the strength of the wind among high trees, and last, loud as the roar of many waters Ц 'The White Plume! The White Plume! Navarre! Navarre!'

"Then the Other King, whom no one cheered greatly nor took much heed of, came out from his mass and strove to meet the king of the brisk and smiling countenance. But for a long time they could not. For the crowd broke in and pressed them so tight that during a good quarter of an hour these two Kings, the White Plume, and the Man-all-covered-with-Lilies, stood within half-a-dozen paces of each other, unable to embrace or even to touch hands. Whereat the White Plume laughed and jested with those about, bidding them remember that he had come without his breakfast, and such-like. But the Man-with-the-Lilies was sullen and angry with the concourse."

"Ah, for a couple of good disciplined Leaguers with long knives!" muttered the Chief of the Inquisitors regretfully.

"And then," continued Jean-aux-Choux, "the angry Soldier-Man, who had stood on the bridge with sword and baton, thrust back the people, speaking many words hotly, which are not fit that I should repeat in your reverend ears. So finally the two Kings met and embraced, and the people shouted, so that none might know what his neighbour said. And presently I saw these two walk arm-in-arm through the press, and so up into the ch?teau, out of my sight. They abode there long time talking, and then after eating they came out. For it was time that the King-covered-with-Lilies should go back to his chapel, being a man apparently very devout."

The expression on the faces of the two inquisitors was dreadful to behold in its contempt and hate. But Mariana laughed.

"So he came out again, and the King with the White Plume still with him. Only he of the Plume entered not in to the chapel, but stayed without, playing at tennis with the strongest and bravest youths of the court, and laughing when they beat him, or when the ball took him in his face.

"And all the while the crowd cried, 'Long live the White Plume! Long live Navarre!' And sometimes from the back, one or two would raise a feeble cry 'Long live France! Long live Henry of Valois!'"

The Chief Inquisitor brought down his fist on the table with a crash, so that the wine-bottles tottered and a glass smashed.

"But he shall not Ц by the crucifix, he shall not!" he hissed, chill-white with anger. "He shall die Ц if there be poison in Italy, steel in France, or Ц "

"Money in Spain!" said Mariana calmly, putting his hand on the arm of his coadjutor. "Well, there is not much Ц but this is the Street of the Money Ц and I judge we shall find enough for that!"

CHAPTER XXX.
JEAN-AUX-CHOUX TAKES HIS WAGES

No sooner had Jean-aux-Choux departed from the terrible house in the Street of the Money at Perpignan, in which he had found the three inquisitors seated, than Mariana, with a sigh of relief, drew from his breast a document on cream-coloured vellum.

Before reading it he looked at the other two, and especially at Frey Tullio the Neapolitan.

"We are all good Spaniards," he was about to begin. But remembering in time the birthplace of the junior inquisitor, he altered his sentence into, "We are all good subjects of King Philip?"

Surintendant Teruel and Frey Tullio bowed their heads. They wondered what was coming, and Tullio was growing not a little sleepy. Even inquisitors must sleep. A pulley-wheel creaked overhead uneasily. Down in the Place of Pain the familiars were trying the ropes for the morrow. There was one that had not acted satisfactorily in the case of that Valencian Jew in the afternoon. They had been ordered to mend it. King Philip did not approve of paying for new ropes too often. Besides, the old were better. They did not stretch so much. Blood and tears had dropped upon them.

So ever and anon the pulley creaked complainingly between two rafters, in the pauses of the Jesuit's soft voice, as he read the Pope's condemnation of King Henry III. of France (called of Valois) Ц excommunicated, outcasted, delivered to Satan that he might learn not to offend Ц for the sin of alliance with the heretic, for the sin of schism and witchcraft Ц "ordered to be read from the chair of our cathedral-church of Meaux, and of all others occupied by faithful bishops Ц "

The face of the peasant-ecclesiastic Teruel lighted with a fierce joy as he listened.

"We shall yet be able to send the Valois before our tribunals. The Holy Office shall be set up in France. At last the Edicts of Trent shall be obeyed. What glory! What joy Ц to judge a King of France, and send him to the stake as a heretic, a schismatic, a hater of Holy Church Ц "

"Softly Ц softly, Brother Teruel," said Mariana, smiling fixedly. "France is not our happy Spain. The people there are not accustomed to fires in the market-places and the smell of burned sacrifice Ц to the sight of their parents and children being fagoted for the glory of God. See what happened in England a few years ago, when our Philip's wife Mary, Queen of that country, tried to introduce a little Ц oh, such a very little Ц of her husband's methods."

"Here we have no difficulty," said Teruel, from his peasant-bigot's point of view. "It is God's good method with the world to extirpate the heretic!"

But the Jesuit answered him truly.

"Make no mistake," he said, tapping the Papal Bull with a plump forefinger, "you succeed here in Spain, my country and yours, because the Spaniard, ninety-nine out of a hundred, is wishful that you should succeed. Our good John Spaniard hates Jews Ц he despises heretics. To him they are a foolish remnant. They prosper abominably; they are patient, unwarlike, easily plundered. Yet they take it upon themselves to offend the eye by their unnecessary industry. A striped blanket in the shade, a little wine, a little gossip Ц and in these later times, since blessed Ferdinand, a good rollicking auto de f? once a week. These suffice him when the King does not call our Spaniard to war. They are the very 'bread-and-bull-fights' for which he cried when he was yet a Roman and a citizen. But in France and in England Ц even in Italy we must act otherwise. We attain our end just the same, but without noise. Only one man somewhere, with a clear brain and an arm that will not fail, drives a knife Ц or, when all backs are turned, inverts the bottom of a poison phial. He gains the martyr's crown, skips Purgatory with a bound, and finds himself in Paradise!"

The little grey Neapolitan blinked owlishly at Mariana. He was growing sleepy, and with all his soul he wished this too-wise man would be silent. But being applied to, he thought it was safer to agree.

"Certainly Ц certainly," he said, "it is the same in Italy."

"In Italy Ц not quite, my friend," said Mariana; "your needs are scarcely the same. With you, cup-and-dagger are as common as Ц fleas, and as little thought of. You have means (literally) to your hand! But here we have to manufacture them, put spirit into them, send them out on their mission as only we of the Ges? can do."

The Jesuit of Toledo paused a little in his argument, turning his eyes from one to the other.

"As to this little matter," he said, again tapping the Papal Bull with his finger-nail, "I have a man who will execute His Holiness's will Ц in your national manner, my good Tullio. Only first, he would have a mandate from the Holy Office, a sort of safe-conduct for his soul Ц the promise of absolution for breaking his vow against the shedding of blood. He is, I must tell you, a little Dominican of Sens, presently misbehaving himself in the mother-college of St. Jacques at Paris. But he is good material for all that, properly handled."

Teruel spoke with the natural caution of the peasant.

"But," said he, "we will be held responsible if aught goes amiss; our duty here is difficult enough! The King Ц "

"The King I will take in my own hand," said Mariana. "I warrant you his fullest protection, and approval. You shall have great favour Ц perhaps even be moved to Seville or Granada, or some other place where Jews, Moriscos, and heretics are frequent and rich. Write me the paper and seal it with the seal official!"



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